The Most Expensive Fiber In The World Is Vicuña

Vicunas

I love looking for interesting yarns, especially with fibers that I’ve never heard of.  The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article that stated that vicuña is the most expensive fiber in the world.  Of course, I had to investigate.

So, what is a vicuña?  It’s a camelid, similar to an alpaca, that lives in the high alpine regions of the Andes Mountains in South America.  The vicuña don’t produce much fiber, but what they have is extremely fine and soft.  This fiber is so expensive due to the low yield, plus the animals can only be shorn once every three years.

Due to their soft fibers, the animals were almost hunted into extinction by 1974.  Thanks to conservation efforts, there are now around 350,000 vicuña.  To put this into perspective… in 2011, there were over 1 billion sheep!

For fiber lovers, here are some statistics:   the fiber diameter of vicuña is approximately 12.5 microns.  This compares to 13.5 microns for the best cashmere, 14.5 for medium- grade cashmere, the most ultra-grade merino is around 15.5 microns, and medium-grade merino is between 18.5 – 20 microns.

The vicuña fibers are hollow and air-filled, making them extremely light.  Since the animals live high in the Andes, the fiber is also very warm.  Until recent developments, the dyeing process has damaged the fibers, so you normally find the fiber in it’s native color.  The natural color of vicuña is cinnamon, with the occasional rare white from albino animals.

Of course, luxury suit makers jumped on this fiber to make their most prized clothing.  A made-to-measure suit made of vicuña starts at $40,000 and goes up from there.  Just a scarf can cost $4,000.  Demand for clothing made of this beautiful fiber has grown year after year, especially from fast-growing China.  As demand increases faster than supply, the price of this lovely fiber will surely skyrocket.

So, now that I knew all about vicuña, I started looking for yarns made of this incredible fiber.  I’m sure there are more manufacturers out there, but this is what I found:

Jacques Cartier 100% vicuña – 25 grams, 218 yds lace-weight, $299.75
Windy Valley vicuña – 28.5 grams, 217 yds lace-weight, $300.00
Mountain Shadow Ranch vicuña roving – 1 oz. unspun, $250.00

Blends of these fibers are obviously lower in price.  Paco-vicuña yarns, which are a mixed breed with alpacas, are also cheaper.  Maybe starting with one of the blended yarns is the way to go as a newbie to this fiber.  However, one of these days, I’d like the real deal.  That is, when I save up enough money to afford to buy it!

Vicuna-faceHappy knitting!

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